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Federal Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Gay Rights in Key Discrimination Case

Title VII, Gay Rights, Gay Workplace Rights

Workplace rights for gay men and women are a little more secure. 

Today a federal appeals court in New York City ruled that a civil rights law from 1964 extends to protect gay people in the workplace from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. This decision comes from the 2nd Circuit despite the Trump administration's involvement and further attempt to tighten the noose on LGBT civil rights.

"We now hold that sexual orientation discrimination constitutes a form of discrimination 'because of . . . sex,' in violation of Title VII," the court wrote in its ruling, which overturns the ruling of a lower court. With the New York court's place in the judicial hierarchy, the only avenue for appeal lies in the Supreme Court.

Related | Trump Is Fighting For Sexuality-Based Discrimination In the Workplace

Supporting their decision, the court stated that anti-gay discrimination like that presented in the case would not exist "but for" a person's sex. Meaning gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people would not be subject to this discriminatory treatment were it not for their sex.

"A woman who is subject to an adverse employment action because she is attracted to women would have been treated differently if she had been a man who was attracted to women," the majority opinion led by Judge Robert Katzman reads. "We can therefore conclude that sexual orientation is a function of sex and, by extension, sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination."

Related | Supreme Court Denies Hearing for LGBT Workplace Discrimination Case

The 2nd Circuit found "sexual orientation is double delineated by sex because it is a function of both a person's sex and the sex of whom he or she is attracted. Logically, because sexual orientation is a function of sex and sex is a protected characteristic under Title VII, it follows that sexual orientation is also protected."

In the dissenting opinion, Judge Gerald Lynch argues against that interpretation. He writes that Title VII "was intended to secure the rights of women to equal protection in employment," saying Congress "did not prohibit, and alas, has not since prohibited, discrimination based on sexual orientation." Read the full ruling, here.

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Dennis Hinzmann